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Gazette Premium Content The Gazette Hockey Peak Performer of the Year: Julian Claudio, Lewis-Palmer

By Brent W. New preps@gazette.com - Updated: April 7, 2014 at 5:37 pm

A tardy Julian Claudio lasted about 30 seconds into the first hockey practice of the season before first-year coach Hal Jordan asked him to leave the ice.

When the Lewis-Palmer all-state forward was allowed to return the next day, he came back as the best all-around player in the Pikes Peak region.

"That set the tone for the whole season," said Claudio, who showed up a minute late to the 9:15 p.m. practice. "There wasn't going to be any slacking this year."

Claudio and his military-bred coach made sure of that. In the weeks and months after his initial benching, Claudio, named a senior captain by Jordan, led the Rangers into the second round of the postseason with 18 goals and 17 assists.

The Gazette All-Area Hockey teams

Looking back at it, Claudio gives thanks to Jordan for pushing him to his peak in hockey.

"I think there was maybe one kid who was ever late again after Coach Jordan kicked me out of practice," said Claudio, who became the school's all-time leader in career goals (41) this season. "He took our program, and myself, to a whole different level in hockey. We were a no-excuses team, and I, like, was a no-excuses guy. "

That was always easier said than done, however.

With probably already too much on his plate during the 2013-14 hockey season, Claudio woke up every day before 6 a.m. and worked through midnight.

Before late-night practices at the ice rink - late because of limited space at arenas throughout the state - the student-body president at Lewis-Palmer was busy balancing a 4.2 grade-point average and four advanced-placement classes.

The Gazette Hockey Coach of the Year: Hal Jordan, Lewis-Palmer

He was also studying, lifting and applying to his dream schools.

"You can't tell him he's going to fail or he can't do something, or that he does too much. He won't let himself fail at anything," said senior teammate AJ Schaefer, the only other player on this year's squad that was part of the 2010-11 championship team. "He just doesn't care about people telling him he can't do something.

"Like, he said we were going to win the title in hockey this year, and no one was going to change his mind about it."

Lewis-Palmer eventually came up just short. After a 12-2 loss in the first round of the playoffs the year before, the Rangers tore through the regular season and grabbed 18 wins in 20 tries before bowing out to Cherry Creek 5-3 in the second round of the playoffs.

When asked about the disappointing finish, Claudio didn't hesitate, and simply said he was looking for ways to improve moving forward.

"Winners just keep working hard no matter the result," said Claudio, who wants to play on Colorado-Boulder's club hockey team next year. "I may not be the most talented hockey player or smartest guy out there, but I'm going to work like crazy to accomplish the things I want to accomplish.

"That's what will set me apart."

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